INDIANAPOLIS—Even as the Bulls wrapped up another impressive victory, the question that has dogged them remained unanswered: Will Derrick Rose be ready for the playoffs after fighting through injuries all season? Rose, last season’s league MVP, finished with 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting to help the Bulls defeat the Indiana Pacers 92-87 on Wednesday night.Rose has missed 26 games this season and he’s just beginning to return to form after most recently dealing with injuries to his right ankle and foot. Though he couldn’t finish like he normally does on his quick, furious drives to the basket, his unparalleled explosiveness was back.Rose, who had seven assists and only one turnover in 27 minutes, had 11 points and eight assists on Saturday in a victory against Dallas after missing the previous three games.Kyle Korver scored 20 points, Carlos Boozer had 16 points and Joakim Noah had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Bulls,who ended the game needing only a victory against Cleveland on Thursday or a loss by the San Antonio Spurs to clinch the top overall seed in the playoffs.The Bulls said earning the top seed is a secondary goal.Lance Stephenson had a career-high 22 points in his first career start for the Pacers, who rested Danny Granger and Leandro Barbosa because they were locked into the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference. Indiana will have homecourt advantage against Orlando in the first round.The Bulls led 49-36 at halftime after shooting 50 percent from the field and outrebounding the Pacers 25-16. The Pacers shot just 5 for 21 from the field in the second quarter and were outscored 17-12.Indiana went on a 7-0 run early in the third quarter to cut the Bulls lead to 55-47 and force a timeout.The Bulls hung tough, and a fast break layup by Richard Hamilton pushed their lead back to 67-54. The Bulls led 67-59 at the end of the third quarter.A dunk by Taj Gibson increased the Bulls lead to 73-60. Indiana made one more push. A fast break layup by Stephenson cut the Bulls’ lead to 78-71 with 5:57 to play, but the Bulls maintained control.Thibodeau said the Bulls will play their regular lineup on Thursday.Thibodeau said the Bulls need the game against Cleveland to get sharper.Rose wants one more chance to prepare for a pressure situation before the postseason begins.
NOTES—Indiana shot 50 percent in the first quarter, but trailed 32-24 at the end of the period. The Bulls outrebounded Indiana 12-6 in the first quarter…..The teams combined for only one turnover in the first 12 minutes….The Pacers honored their ABA championship teams from 1969-70, 1971-72 and 1972-73 at halftime. All surviving members of those teams were invited…..Indiana had only its sixth sellout crowd of the season.